On Saturday, September 23rd, officially the first day of Autumn 2023, a festival was held in Evans-Bosshard Park, celebrating Hispanic Heritage month. The month-long celebration runs from September 15th to October 15th. The observation officially started in 1968, as Hispanic Heritage Week, under President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration to a 30-day period. It was enacted into law on August 17th, 1988. This year’s theme is “Driving Prosperity, Power and Progress in America.”
During these 30 days of recognition, the United States Government celebrates the countless contributions of the more than 60-million Hispanic Americans, to a proud nation. At Evans-Bosshard Park, colorful clothing, folklore dancers, music, lights, vendors, and attendees had all gathered for the day-long event, which landed on the 8th day of the celebratory month.
Bernardo Cruz, who owns El Rey de Los Tacos, spent some time traveling this summer, with his food truck. He was experiencing so many exciting and successful Hispanic festivals, causing a thought to cross his mind — Why not Sparta?
When Bernardo Cruz approached Maria Dominguez and Gilberto Carmona, of La Preferida Radio, out of Beloit, Wisconsin, who have been organizing and promoting Hispanic Heritage festivals in the Midwest, they were very eager to guide Cruz in his endeavor. The duo explained, “Saturday’s event in Sparta will benefit the ‘Grupo Folklorico Juvenil Sangre Mexicana de Beloit,” or “Beloit Mexican Youth Folklore Group,” which seeks to preserve and showcase the many different traditional dances, from different states, across Mexico.
After the beautiful folkloric dances, the young performers were happy to pause for pictures and express their feelings about dancing, traveling, and meeting new people. Karla Chavez shared, “We like to travel and dance. It has helped us embrace our culture. We lose a lot of that because we are growing up in a new place. We want to share the culture, where our families are from.”
Another young dancer chimed in, “We love dancing, makeup, hair, and costumes. Not only that, but we also get to meet others and get close as a group. Not every city is the same. It’s really exciting to share our culture.”
Also featured at Sparta’s first annual Hispanic Heritage Festival were an array of food trucks, vendors, and artists. El Rey de Los Tacos was serving tacos made with carne asada, or grilled steak, and al pastor, or grilled pork with pineapple. Patrons could also tour the food trucks and vendors, to find delicious corn, or elotes, topped with things such as crumbled cheese, chili powder, lime, mayo, and more - or just salt. Fresh fruit in a spectrum of tropical colors, from mangoes to yellow cherries, were sliced and served fresh, along with choices of popular snacks, such as roasted pumpkin seeds, chicharrons (fried pork belly), postres (desserts), ice cream, and more.
Children raced around, playing with each other and their new toys, which they had found at the various vendor stalls. There were also those who were patiently waiting to have their faces painted. Adults enjoyed shopping for handcrafted dresses, ponchos, and shawls. In between all of these goings-on were fun promotions, where attendees could win kitchen supplies, free tacos, and beer. As daylight faded into dusk, tents lit with festive lights beckoned shoppers to grab something sparkly and head to the dance floor.
Some locals were caught by surprise, as the quiet park was filled with music and a fiesta atmosphere. All wished they had known about the event, expressing that they would have loved to have come. Cruz says he plans to have two more events next year and would love to have help promoting the events in Sparta, Monroe County, and The Driftless. The parties, “Fiestas Familiares” will be family friendly, colorful, and fun.
The festive event is a great place and time to meet your neighbors, celebrate life, eat, dance, and experience new things. Cruz envisions including more vendors and sponsors, too. He welcomes anyone interested in participating or helping with promoting, to stop by or reach out on social media, at El Rey de Los Tacos.
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